(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Today, most people know that the US tortured prisoners at Guantánamo and CIA black sites. Experts have been clear that torture does not produce reliable information. The response is often yeah, torture is the only way to save Americans from a mushroom cloud tomorrow. Cripes, it works for Jack Bauer!
Even if you believe torture is permissible for national security reasons, is torture an acceptable method for a Congressionally-established commission to obtain facts? News reports indicate that 25% of the information about the 9/11 attacks came from prisoners who were tortured. The 9/11 Commission was responsible for providing a complete accounting of the attacks, including “recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.” Just how safe is America when it is relying upon recommendations based upon facts obtained by torture?
Newsweek is now reporting that the 9/11 commission relied upon information obtained from prisoners who were tortured. The 9/11 report documented in detailed footnotes when information was obtained from the CIA interrogations of prisoners. NBC news conducted an analysis that found that ¼ of the footnotes referenced the source of the facts to prisoners who were subjected to the euphemistic “enhanced interrogation techniques” or what many admit now was torture. The NBC News analysis was based on the final 9/11 report as well as interviews with Commission staffers and current/former intelligence officials.
According to both current and former senior U.S. intelligence officials, the operatives cited by the Commission were subjected to the harshest of the CIA’s methods, the “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The techniques included physical and mental abuse, exposure to extreme heat and cold, sleep deprivation and waterboarding.
The torture evidence was cited to establish key parts of critical sections of the 9/11 report:
The NBC News analysis shows that more than one quarter of all footnotes in the 9/11 Report refer to CIA interrogations of al-Qaida operatives who were subjected to the now-controversial interrogation techniques. In fact, information derived from the interrogations is central to the Report’s most critical chapters, those on the planning and execution of the attacks. The analysis also shows – and agency and commission staffers concur – there was a separate, second round of interrogations in early 2004, done specifically to answer new questions from the Commission.
The CIA claims that only 3 prisoners were waterboarded: “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks; Abu Zubaydah, Al Qaeda’s operations chief; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, ringleader of the USS Cole bombing.” The 9/11 report cites information from KSM and Zubaydah “throughout two key chapters” of the report addressing the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks.
Evidence tainted by torture is excluded from criminal trials because it is inherently unreliable, yet, key parts of a Congressional report that will be used to establish policy are based on torture.
What does it say about America that a Congressionally established committee apparently ignored “obvious clues throughout 2003 and 2004 that its account of the 9/11 plot and Al Qaeda’s history relied heavily on information obtained” from tortured prisoners? The NBC report states that the 9/11 Commission “suspected that critical information it used in its landmark report” was the product of the “enhanced interrogations” that many call by its rightful name of torture.
The 9/11 panel also did not publicly protest the interrogation methods even though there were public reports at the time that the prisoners were being tortured or subjected to “enhanced interrogation.” Moreover, despite their suspicions and public news reports, the position of the commission staffers interviewed by NBC News was that interrogation techniques were “not in our mandate.”
Finally, the commission “demanded that the CIA carry out new rounds of interrogations in 2004 to get answers to its questions.” Newsweek reports that it is a “distinct possibility” that prisoners were subjected to torture in order to answer the questions posed by the 9/11 Commission. Commission members wanted to have direct access to the prisoners to ask questions, but the Whitehouse refused, so questions were passed onto the CIA. The Commission first requested access to the prisoners in 2004 when the horrors of Abu Ghraib were publicly revealed.
NBC News reported how the Commission “pushed” the CIA to obtain information from the prisoners:
In addition, officials of both the 9/11 Commission and CIA confirm the Commission specifically asked the agency to push the operatives on a new round of interrogations months after their first interrogations. The Commission, in fact, supplied specific questions for the operatives to the agency. This new round took place in early 2004, when the agency was still engaged in the full range of harsh techniques.
Newsweek notes the “troubling implications for the credibility of the commission’s final report” given that testimony obtained by torture is “typically discredited.” Commission staffers knew this to be the case:
9/11 Commission staffers say they “guessed” but did not know for certain that harsh techniques had been used, and they were concerned that the techniques had affected the operatives’ credibility. At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being “tortured.”
The 9/11 Commission executive director, Philip Zelikow, stated that they did not know for sure that prisoners were tortured to obtain this information, but “we guessed that things like that were going on” and so “we tried to find different sources to enhance our credibility.”
Former Senator Bob Kerrey, who was a commission member, said that we may need a “permanent 9/11 commission” to resolve the “mysteries of September 11” as even he now believes that “there’s reason now to suspect that we may have gotten some of the details wrong.”
The NBC News analysis was reported on its investigative blog site a year ago. Aside from an interview conducted at the time by Democracy Now!, there has not been much press coverage until the Newsweek article this week. Have there been other times when prisoners were tortured to provide information to other committees? For whatever reason that members of the 9/11 Commission did not yell this story to the public years ago, why not come forward now?
Our options for finding out the truth are being wiped away bit by bit. Will there ever be public trials of the prisoners? How many lawsuits filed by prisoners will be dismissed rather than proceed to a public trial? Congress is discussing various proposals for investigations, but what will be the scope of those inquiries and the rules for whether immunity is provided? And, how is a “Truth Commission” based on the model of the 9/11 Commission anything more than a sham, particularly knowing that it used evidence obtained from torture? If a special prosecutor is not appointed to conduct a truly open and independent inquiry, we may never learn the truth about the nature and extent to which our government tortured prisoners and which of our policies are based on tortured evidence.
For many Americans, torture was an abstract concept of events occurring overseas. Now we learn that elected lawmakers and appointed officials turned a blind eye while they used, and perhaps encouraged, torture to obtain “facts” upon which US policy will be based.